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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

The Woods Are Lovely…

Bart Gazzola
Published Thursday May 16, 11:34 am
Salzl’s exhibit is dark and deep

Photo Credit: Tammy Salzl, The Chorus, oil on canvas, 2011.

INTO THE WOODS

Runs to Friday 24

AKA Gallery

Spring is when this young man’s fancy turns to ladies — and their paintings, of course. Perhaps that’s due to the panel discussion for Dreaming Painting, which featured several artists I’ve mentioned before (Janet Werner, Mélanie Rocan), and showing now, Tammy Salzl’s Into the Woods, at AKA.

The words of Kim Gordon, late of Sonic Youth, are also in my head too, as to how women make natural rebels, because they’re still treated as second-class citizens. Narrative is a major touchstone for all three of the above artists, and they’ll tell their own stories, thank you.

Salzl’s works at AKA are — like Rocan’s — about her place in the world (both are mothers) and how she positions herself within it. The points Salzl made at Dreaming Painting (brought to you by AKA, College / Kenderdine galleries and the Mendel) included how she “mediates alienation through beauty and narration [in] operatic tableaux. that are almost like Grimm Bros. fairy tale illustrations.

“The uncanny, the grotesque, the monstrous skewed forms [are] set in a darker space,” said Salzl, though still a kind of “familiar storybook setting [that] slows the viewer down or disconcerts the viewer”. Yet she makes them as “aesthetically beautiful as possible.” 

Salzl framed her work in Into the Woods as a response to “our current psychosis as owners, not gatekeepers, or stewards, of our planet.”

Her talk was notable for the simplicity of her statement that she “says things that are important to me through paint.”

Into the Woodssees AKA dominated by several large works, with female figures fearsome or calm. “The Chorus” is the former, with her multiple breasts, birthing of animals and a retinue that would make any Maenad proud. “Familial Ties” is the latter, a girl reclining on a couch — until you see the anatomically correct heart she holds like a lover’s token, as though it bores her, now. (“Etiäinen” is also “superficially quiet,” where a flowing, voluminous dress seems to shift from pretty, girly pink to raw and juicy entrails.)

Salzl’s people are fleshy: their joints, knees, knuckles all seem inflamed, reminding me of the late (and much lamented) Lucien Freud.

You can’t understand the importance of the work of Salzl (and Mélanie Rocan, and Janet Werner) unless you understand the prophylactic that is karaoke modernism here. Looking forward in terms of paint, this summer we’ll see The Automatiste Revolution: Montréal 1941 to 1960, and Shaping Saskatchewan: the art scene 1936 – 1964, both at the Mendel. Revolution is a touring show, and their significance extends beyond Canada’s borders, and you can draw a line from them to the three artists I’ve mentioned. A line between karaoke modernism and the inevitable shuttering of the U of S art department could also be drawn…. but never mind. Go see Into the Woods, while you still can, and spend your time on quality work.

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